Corporations with Benefits: 6 Reasons to Become a B Corp Now

Evil vs. Good


Nearly every company markets itself as one of the good guys and makes some effort to show they are good corporate citizens. But is “being good” really part of your company’s core values? Let’s be honest, how many companies consistently consider their impact on people and the planet when making decisions? Does yours? If you are genuinely committed to the triple bottom line, you should flaunt it. Better yet, incorporate your commitment to a better world into your company’s purpose. The B Corp movement is redefining what it means to be successful in business.

What’s a B Corp?

“B Corp”is a term often used to refer to both Benefit Corporations and Certified B Corporations –which are actually two different things. I’ll get to that in a moment.

At their heart, both Benefit Corporations and Certified B Corporations are really about trust and transparency. They provide a clear signal to the marketplace (customers, employees, investors, and community) that your business is sincere about making a positive social and environmental impact, in addition to being profitable.  The B Corp designation has created a new and growing class of companies that use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

Certified B Corporation Logo

There are two ways to become a part of this movement. The first option is through B Labs, a non-profit organization which certifies B Corporations –similar to how Fair Trade USA (formerly Transfair) certifies Fair Trade coffee.  You simply complete their B Impact Assessment, achieve the required score, amend your bylaws and you’re in.  Organizations of any type or legal structures can become a Certified B Corporation. There are currently over 500 Certified B Corporations.

The second option is to apply for Benefit Corporation status in your state. The Benefit Corporation is a legal designation and it isn’t available in every state.  So far, 7 states, including California, have passed legislation allowing companies to incorporate as Benefit Corporations. Four states have legislation pending.

I won’t go into all the gory technical details, but the Benefit Corporation Information Center offers a good comparison of a Certified B Corp vs. Benefit Corporation, which explains their similarities and differences.

Why you should become a B Corp right now

For me this is a no brainer. Becoming a Certified B Corp or a Benefit Corporation is simply the right thing to do. It embraces an ethical standard -more powerful than Google’s “don’t be evil” motto- that shows the world you can make money and be thoughtful about how your business impacts society and the planet.  However, if you need more than my personal opinion to convince yourself, your investors, your shareholders, or management team that this is a good idea, here are 6 reasons to become a B Corp now:

  1. It’s good for your businessA recent study by Millward Brown of the world’s 50 fastest growing brands found a strong relationship between a brand’s ability to serve a higher purpose and its financial performance.
  2. You’ll be a leader in a growing movement– The B Corp movement is still young. Do it now to demonstrate that you are a pioneer. You’ll be in good company, joining the ranks of Patagonia, Seventh Generation, Method, Dansko, Revolution Foods, Traditional Medicinals, and other values-driven companies striving to make a positive impact while earning a profit.
  3. You’re joining a community – This movement has created a community of businesses, partners, and customers that work together to help each other succeed. People want to help B Corps succeed because it makes them feel good.
  4. You’ll attract better talent – People want to work for companies that are genuinely trying to make the world a better place. I know I do. Don’t you? There is a new generation of talent and social entrepreneurs who believe businesses should do more than just make money. And this generation can tell whether you have made a genuine commitment to a social purpose, or if you’re just faking it.
  5. You’ll attract (the right) investors – If you’re looking to raise capital from mainstream investors, being a B Corp likely won’t hurt –though the verdict is still out on this issue. On the other hand, mission-aligned capital is available. There is a growing community of impact investors and funds seeking companies that achieve a high social and environmental impact. According to the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN)impact investors are planning to invest almost $4 billion over the next year.  In addition, there are a number of commercial banks and venture firms that have become Certified B Corps themselves.
  6. You protect your ability to pursue a triple bottom line – In a typical corporation, you are legally obligated to make decisions that “maximize shareholder wealth.” If you don’t, your shareholders can sue. Look at what happened to Ben & Jerry’s. In 2000, Ben & Jerry’s rejected a buyout offer from Unilever in favor of a lesser offer that promised to protect the company’s corporate mission. Then along came the shareholder complaints and lawsuits claiming that Ben and Jerry’s had a fiduciary obligation to ensure the maximum return to their shareholders, and therefore they needed to sell to the highest bidder, Unilever.  Certified B Corps and Benefit Corporations offer protection from shareholder lawsuits. Though not yet tested in the courts, the B Corp designation clearly informs prospective shareholders that the stated purpose of the company goes beyond maximizing shareholder wealth.

What does it take to become a Benefit Corporation or Certified B Corp?

Here are the basic steps to becoming a Benefit Corporation or a Certified B Corporation. They are straight forward and fairly simple.

Steps to Become a Certified B Corporation

  1. Earn a minimum score of 80 on the B Impact Assessment
  2. Amend your bylaws to require consideration of stakeholder interests
  3. Sign the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence and Term Sheet (agree to pay an annual fee and to the possibility of being randomly selected for an on-site audit)

Steps to Receiving Benefit Corporation Status (may vary by state)

  1. Include or amend your corporate charter by adding a statement of purpose “to create a general public benefit,” defined as a material positive impact on society and the environment. You may also add one or more specific public benefits.
  2. File your corporate charter in the state you want to establish the corporation and pay the filing fee (in California the filing fee is $100)
  3. Complete an annual “Benefit Report” utilizing a third-party standard to assess the company’s social and environmental performance.

Many companies claim to have a broader purpose, with high standards of accountability and transparency. I say, “prove it!” If you are truly committed to making the world a better place, make it part of your company’s DNA: become a Certified B Corp or a Benefit Corporation –or do both.  Join a movement that is leading the change in how business ought to be conducted in the 21st century.

Five Reasons Native Apps are Beating the Mobile Web, and 10 Reasons Why They Shouldn’t

cute woman texting

Right now there is a conundrum facing many companies that are trying to reach customers on mobile devices. Do I develop a native application for the device –which really means developing several native applications in order to connect with users of iPhones, Andriods, and Blackberries? Or, do I develop a mobile Web site accessible through various mobile browsers? Perhaps you should do both. Yet if you have limited resources, like most of us, you’ll need to make some choices. What is the best investment?  That all depends on your business goals, who you need to reach, and ultimately who you believe will control the world mobile devices.

Why native apps are winning now:
  1. Easier to monetize (this is the most important reason):
    • People are more willing to pay for something tangible, such as a new app, than they are to access a Web site.
    • Apple iTunes, Google Andriod Market, Amazon Andriod App Store have created a market for buying and selling apps.
    • Apps can garner additional revenue from advertising placements within the app.
    • In app purchases offer new ways to generate revenue by allowing users to buy added features, upgrades, virtual products from within the app.
  2. Better UX: With a few exceptions, the user-experience for native apps is better than most mobile webs;  Many mobile sites are mostly crap.
  3. Better integration with device capabilities: If you are creating features that are tightly integrated with the device (i.e., GPS, accelerometer, compass, camera, address book, calendar), then an app may be a better choice. Though, I should note that Safari already has integrated support for their accelerometer and gyroscope.
  4. Better performance: Native apps run faster -usually. This is especially true for highly complex and interactive applications.
  5. Some apps need to be native: Apps which are extremely complex and highly interactive, e.g. games like Super Monkey Ball, are best developed for native platforms (see #4 above).
For certain types of applications, developing a native app makes more sense right now.  In particular, this is true for graphics heavy games, or apps that need to be tightly integrated in the capabilities of the device. However, for most others, there are pretty compelling reasons to hope for a future where mobile web sites are the norm. 

Why I believe the mobile Web should win:

    Andriod and Firefox logos

  1. Access to 100% of smartphone users: With a mobile Web site, you have the potential to reach 100% of smartphone users, on every platform.  Your iPhone app will only reach about 7% of the total mobile market.
  2. Standards-driven platform: It’s easier and more efficient to build for a single, standards-based platform (such as HTML5); sure, you’ll still need some code to translate the experience across multiple devices, but writing that code will be easier than developing multiple native apps. For more on mobile Web standards see WC3 and WURFL.
  3. Easier to maintain, support and upgrade: A mobile web site will be easier to maintain, support and upgrade compared with separate apps for several platforms; again, you can use one set of rules to adapt code so it works  across all devices. Plus, you can release updates as often as you want.
  4. Improved results for mobile advertising:  For any online ad campaign to work, you need to have a great “post-click” experience. It’s no different for mobile. Where will your mobile ad take you? A well-designed mobile landing page will likely be your best bet.
  5. Performance will keep getting better: Mobile browser performance is already improving with HTML5, accelerated CSS, and better JavaScript.
  6. Better UX is within our grasp: Some mobile web sites already offer an excellent user experience. As companies direct more resources, innovation, and focus on mobile customers, mobile UX will improve greatly. Here are a few great examples of mobile Web sites:,,, Amazon. For additional mobile design inspiration, check out these well-design pages courtesy of Designmodo.
  7. No gatekeeper: Anyone can get to your mobile site; unlike creating app, you are not at the mercy of someone else (e.g., Apple, Google) who controls entry into the app store.
  8. No revenue-sharing is required: App stores demand some pretty significant revenue-sharing agreements, before they’ll agree to accept your app. Not so with a mobile Web site –you keep control over your entire revenue stream.
  9. Better for search and SEO: Unlike an app, mobile Web pages can be crawled and indexed by search engines. This is important so users can discover your content through searches on relevant keywords. In addition, other sites can link to your mobile Web site content, which will improve your search rankings (as long as your mobile site and main Web site are hosted at the same domain).
  10. You just don’t need an app:  Assuming you’re not creating a graphics-intensive game or building features around tightly integrated capabilities of the device, a mobile site is going to be just fine.

In the end, you need to be clear on what audience you want to reach and how quickly.

If you already have a large number of customers who expect to access your services from their mobile device, you may opt to develop apps for multiple platforms and a mobile site.  Otherwise, set your priorities, consider the issues noted above, and think about where we are headed. I believe mobile Web sites and hybrid apps (skinned browsers) will beat out the App universe –except in the case of games and certain business apps.  Why? For the reasons I mention above, plus just take a look at how SaaS products continue to erode the sales of many desktop applications.

7 Reasons Why EHRs Matter Now

Doctor using touchscreen display

In the future, electronic health records (EHRs) will integrate family histories, comprehensive genomic data, and real-time biometric data, with the growing trove of health information already being captured. The expectation is that these advances will lead to improved and more personalized diagnoses, treatments, and prevention plans. Of course, we’re not quite there yet. However, forces have begun to align to make the latest EHRs more useful and ready for adoption.

EHRs are poised to become the norm for every hospital, outpatient clinic, medical group, and private practitioner. And I believe that is a very good thing. 

re’s why you should get on board now:

  1. Paper records are inefficient – Just like older card filing systems in libraries, paper records are, well, inefficient. They can’t be in two places at once, they can be misplaced, handwritten notes may be illegible, they take up physical space, they aren’t integrated with claims and billing, and the information within them isn’t easily shared. Those using EHRs will have an initial learning curve, but ultimately they will improve administrative efficiency, making medical record-keeping faster, better, and easier.
  2. EHRs are good for patients – EHRs improve a patient’s access to useful information. While patients can’t directly access an EHR, most EHRs will enable patient access to certain medical information through a patient health record (PHR). The typical PHR gives patients an easy, secure way to access appointments, prescriptions, test results, immunizations, preventative services, and secure messaging, which facilitates much better communication between a patient and their doctor.
  3. EHR solutions are good now, and they will continue to get better – The usability, technology, and capabilities of EHRs has improved greatly. They are designed to work with more specialties than ever. They are becoming easier to use, less costly to implement and maintain, and more connected to an entire ecosystem of useful tools and features. In particular, cloud-based systems, such as that offered by Practice Fusion, will allow small groups or private practices to get up and running quickly, without upfront investments in technical infrastructure or specialized IT knowledge (check here for a complete list of certified EHR products).
  4. Better Access to Data – The ability to aggregate medical data for certain patient populations should help physicians monitor how well their patient’s are controlling conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. They’ll also keep track of immunizations and preventative care needs. However, the biggest impact of this data may not be to an individual doctor’s patient panel. Anonymized (de-identified) data extracted from EHRs may ultimately be used for improve predictive modeling, comparative research (comparing drugs, treatments or medical devices), real-time surveillance (to track the spread of TB and other infectious diseases), and adverse event monitoring.
  5. Government incentives – The HITECH Act of 2009 provides incentives of up to $44,000 over 5 years to eligible professionals who adopt, implement, upgrade or demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology. But you should start now. The maximum incentive is only available for those who demonstrate “meaningful use” by 2012 (Also see the Medicare Electronic Health Record Incentive Program for Eligible Professionals PDF for a good summary). To receive the latest updates on these incentive programs, subscribe to the CMS EHR Incentive Programs Listserv.
  6. Healthcare Information Exchanges – The holy grail of health care data interoperability is the healthcare information exchange (HIE). HIE’s allow the sharing of healthcare information electronically across organizations: within a hospital system, community, or region. By linking patient data with multiple providers, HIEs improve the continuity of care. Secondly, the exchanges reduce the expenses and time that would otherwise be spent for duplicate tests, locating missing patient information, printing and copying documents, scanning and faxing documents, mailing patient charts, and the manual communications needed to verify the delivery and receipt of information, referrals, and test results.
  7. Good Data Security and Privacy Compliance Data security and privacy compliance may be the most important things for health information systems to get right. The good news is that the tools you need for excellent data security and compliance with privacy rules are readily available. In fact, any worthy EHR solution will embrace these features: secure data warehouses, backup systems, redundant power supplies, data encryption, and a Certificate of Compliance by an Authorized Testing and Certification Body for each EHR module. There are even more novel solutions to address the complex flow of data in HIEs. For example, trust networks, like those designed by Resilient Network Systems, allow owners to apply customized privacy policies to control access and use of their data.

There is a vast graveyard of well-documented failures that have left many skeptical about the benefits of EHRs.

EHRs and EMRs have been around for over 30 years and I’ve seen first-hand how much money has been wasted on HIT systems. Why do they fail? There are plenty of good reasons EHRs or other ehealth initiatives may fail. Here are just a few:
Stack of patient medical records
  • EHRs are not a substitute for good medicine
  • You did not fix broken processes or redesign workflow before implementation
  • You expected to solve a problem the EHR was not designed to solve
  • Your EHR was poorly designed
  • Your EHR was poorly implemented
  • Your training was inadequate
  • You did not get buy-in/commitment from staff
  • You selected the wrong solution for your practice
Still, I was struck, though not surprised, when I saw the recent electronic health records study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine on January 24, 2011, concluding that there is no consistent association between quality indicators and the use of EHRs.  The study, entitled Electronic Health Records and Clinical Decision Support Systems, Impact on National Ambulatory Care Quality focused on the use of electronic health records (EHRs) and Clinical decision support used in the ambulatory setting between 2005 and 2007.
To be clear, it wasn’t so much the results or conclusion of this study that struck me. You see, PLoS Medicine recently published a meta-analysis examining 53 systematic reviews that assessed the impact of various ehealth interventions. In his review, The Impact of eHealth on the Quality and Safety of Health Care: A Systematic Overview, Sheikh and his colleagues reached a similar conclusion. According to the authors, “many of the clinical claims made about the most commonly deployed [digital health] technologies cannot be substantiated by the empirical evidence.”
What struck me was the futility of anyone who might use these articles in their attempts to argue against, or delay the implementation of EHRs.
Deep down, even the most stubborn physicians know there is no stopping the accelerating pace of EHR adoption. Resisting this change will not stop it from coming. That would be like continuing to use the typewriter in hopes of slowing down the spread of personal computers. It’s already happening and nothing you do now is going to stop it.
No one denies that technological innovations can improve health care, and no one can stop the move away from paper-based patient record systems.
Are EHRs perfect now? No. But their designs, features, and usability have gotten pretty damn good, especially in the last few years. As I’ve described above, there are compelling reasons for more medical practices to adopt EHRs now.  With wider acceptance there will be more data and more innovation, which will ultimately lead to the promised improvements in clinical quality and health outcomes we are expecting.

Books, Publishing, and Marketing for Authors

Over the last couple of months, several people I know have approached me to assist them with marketing their recently published books. This got me thinking about the direction of the book publishing industry and how author’s are better equipped than ever to reach out directly to their potential readers. Yet, most authors still rely on their publishers to market and promote their books.

The book industry is going through a massive change, not unlike the music industry already has. E-Readers are getting a lot of recent attention, but there are huge changes occurring for authors, publishers, and the marketing of books. Here are a few insights I have gleaned:

  • Book Publishers are Dead – Just like the record labels, publishers are no longer necessary to create and publish your book. With a manuscript in hand, authors can now publish on their own through services like Lulu,, iUniverse, or CreateSpace (an Amazon company). Sure, there may be some upfront expenses, but those costs are fairly low and will continue to drop given options like ebooks and print-on-demand.
  • New Content Distributors for Books – Who will own the new method of book distribution? As with LPs and CDs, paper books will largely give way to ebooks. The new ebook distributors will control the marketplace. The winners? We’ll see. Those with eReaders are getting an early start, but I’m betting on Amazon, GoogleBooks, Apple (think Tablet PC + iTunes + eBook Store), Sony.
  • Social Media for Marketing Books – There are many ways for authors to directly reach out and get found by their target audience. Similar to traditional marketing, the first step is to understand your audience: who are they? where are they? what do they need? But unlike traditional marketing, using social media and inbound marketing let your potential customers find you. A great place to learn more about this is HubSpot. HubSpot provides excellent and free resources (including Inbound Marketing University), plus they actually use these practices in marketing their own business. 

So, my message to authors is “get found.” Understand your audience, create useful content for them (videos, blogs, articles, ebooks), optimize your content (make it easy to find), then promote the hell out of it (Twitter, Facebook, RSS feed, join/create community). It will take work. You may need help. But unless you already have celebrity author cred, you have no choice.

How Often Should You Post Updates?

Are you posting too much, too little, or just right? Everyone has an updating frequency sweet spot, they just need to find it.   Posting updates to a blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or whatever social network group you belong to each have their own nuanced behaviors, but here are a couple of helpful hints to guide your urge to update:

  1. Only post when you have something to say – enough said.
  2. Don’t be a stream hog – too many posts over a short period of time tend to dominate a readers update stream; and that’s annoying.
  3. If posting updates gets in the way, then you’re posting too often – if you’re posting updates obsessively during family meals, dating, talking to your spouse, driving, or instead of paying attention to personal hygiene, then you’re posting too often.
  4. More posts can get you more traffic, links, views, followers, etc… up to a point (see #2) – Sure, assuming you have lots of interesting, insightful, useful, funny, or outrageous stuff to share, frequent updates will keep you’re audience more engaged. But don’t over do it.

In other words, yeah, it’s mostly common sense. 

Marketing in the Present

Wow, the world of marketing and PR has changed so much in the last few years. It’s no longer an option to rely on traditional means of advertising and communications to get out your message. In fact, you are no longer in control of your message.

For anyone trying to grow a business, trying to communicate with customers, it’s time to embrace the current state of affairs. This means letting go and reaching out using new strategies, tools, tactics and technologies. It’s not about announcements, broadcasts, or controlled messages. It’s a conversation. And how do you start this conversation?

A great conversation begins by having something to share that’s interesting, engaging, provocative. Next, you need to be responsive and remain alert as these conversations emerge, spread, and evolve. Whether you start such conversations yourself, or not, you need to participate in them. Start one, find one, change one, just be part of the conversation.